Monday, April 26, 2010

Mark Strand: The Night, The Porch

Hello Poets,
if we can find sacred distance from our troubling minds, Mark Strand seems to be saying, doors open and what we seek vanishes as quickly as it appears.
So let the spring wind blow you about, as it has me the past few days.

The Night, The Porch

To stare at nothing is to learn by heart
What all of us will be swept into, and baring oneself
To the wind is feeling the ungraspable somewhere close by.
Trees can sway or be still. Day or night can be what they wish.
What we desire, more than a season or weather, is the comfort
Of being strangers, at least to ourselves. This is the crux
Of the matter, which is why even now we seem to be waiting
For something whose appearance would be its vanishing --
The sound, say, of a few leaves falling, or just one leaf,
Or less. There is no end to what we can learn. The book out there
Tells us as much, and was never written with us in mind.

by Mark Strand, from New Selected Poems, 2007

Monday, April 19, 2010

Marge Piercy: To Have Without Holding

Hello Poets,
Marge Piercy on the difficult dance of love. Keep dancing, moment by moment.

To Have Without Holding

Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.

It hurts to love wide open
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives.

It hurts to thwart the reflexes
of grab, of clutch; to love and let
go again and again. It pesters to remember
the lover who is not in the bed,
to hold back what is owed to the work
that gutters like a candle in a cave
without air, to love consciously,
conscientiously, concretely, constructively.

I can't do it, you say it's killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
You float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor's button blue and bobbing
on the cold and hot winds of our breath,
as we make and unmake in passionate
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.

by Marge Piercy, from The Moon is Always Female, 1980

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bird (by Pablo Neruda)

Hello Poets,
As I prepare to do battle with birds this spring - Canyon Towhees, House Finches, Curved Billed Thrashers, Shrub Jays - making meals of tender seedlings and ripening fruits, I remember what Alan Chadwick once insisted, "You miss the whole point of the garden if you fail to notice the birds."
Pablo Neruda becomes bird, sings as a bird, views the world from above and gives us this poem.


It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through which the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air –
and there, night came in.

When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography –
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.

by Pablo Neruda, from Fully Empowered, 1962
translated from the Spanish by Alastair Reid

Monday, April 5, 2010

Watching Dogwood Blossoms Fall In A Parking Lot Off Route 46

Hello Poets,
August Kleinzahler is not easy to read. He jumps around celebrating the mundane weird world with a gentle hand that leaves the both reader and the poet on the side lines.
As Stephen Burt in the New York Times Book Review wrote ". . . he never says more than he should, rarely repeats himself and keeps his focus not on the man who speaks the poems (and whose personality comes across anyway) but on what that man sees and on what he can hear.”
Maybe that's what we need, crystal clear egoless comprehension as the first step to wise action.
Full disclosure: I spent my high school years off Route 46, smelling those same benzene fumes.

Watching Dogwood Blossoms Fall In A Parking Lot Off Route 46
Dogwood blossoms drift down at evening
             as semis pound past Phoenix Seafood
and the Savarin plant, west to the Turnpike,
             Paterson or hills beyond.
The adulterated, pearly light and bleak perfume
             of benzene and exhaust
make this solitary tree and the last of its bloom
              as stirring somehow after another day
at the hospital with Mother and the ashen old ladies
              lost to TV reruns flickering overhead
as that shower of peach blossoms Tu Fu watched
               fall on the riverbank
from the shadows of the Jade Pavilion,
               while ghosts and the music
of yellow orioles found out the seam of him
               and slowly cut along it. 
by August Kleinzahler, from Sleeping It Off in Rapid City, 2008